Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today urged the Bimstec members to fulfill their pledge to build this region as a secure, stable and prosperous one for ensuring dignity and peace for all of its peoples.
"I call upon the fraternal members of the Bimstec to extend all cooperation in fulfilling our pledge to becoming a secure, stable and prosperous region where all our peoples would enjoy a life of dignity, security and peace," she said.
The prime minister also stressed the need for working with collective strength and capabilities by the Bimstec members in utilising combined natural endowments for beneficial economic integration and shared prosperity.
"The reality today is a globalised world where we need to work with collective strength and capabilities in utilising our combined natural endowments for beneficial economic integration and shared prosperity," she added.
The prime minister told the inaugural function of the third Bimstec (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) Summit at Myanmar International Conference Centre here this morning.
From Bimstec's initial six areas of cooperation in 1998, Sheikh Hasina said, it has expanded to fourteen, of which some are achieving notable progress, with others awaiting fresh impetus.
"The Bimstec needs to move forward with efforts based on mutual respect, trust, mutual and equitable sharing of benefits," she said.
Chairman of the third Bimstec summit, Myanmar President Thein Sein, delivered the welcome address, while Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay and Sihasak Phuangketkeow, permanent secretary and special envoy to Thai prime minister, spoke.
Founded in June 1997, the Bimstec (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi- Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) groups Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
After the opening ceremony, two memorandums of association (MOAs) and one memorandum of understanding (MOU) were signed in the presence of the heads of state and government from the Bimstec member states.
The instruments are: The MOA on Establishment of the Bimstec Permanent Secretariat in Dhaka, The MOA on the Establishment of a Bimstec Centre for Weather and Climate in India and The MOU on the Establishment of the Bimstec Cultural Industries Commission (BCIC) and Bimstec Cultural Industries Observatory (BCIO) in Bhutan.
The prime minister reiterated her government's total commitment to the Bimstec, saying that it has the potential to move us all to our common goals.
"I see optimism in its vibrant role, to particularly help Bangladesh in fulfilling its "Vision 2021" of a middle-income country, which is a step to our journey to becoming "Sonar Bangla" or "Golden Bangladesh" as envisioned by Father of our Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman," she said.
She said purposeful connectivity ensuring free movement of peoples, goods, and services have been found from experience as one factor vital for quicker development of member states, overall well-being of their peoples, and closer regional integration.
"Therefore, soon after our past government took charge in 2009, I visited our immediate neighbors to develop such connectivity. It was received well by all as a realistic way to raise the quality of life of our peoples," she said.
In this forum, she said, our aspirations are similar as reflected in the recommendations contained in the "Bimstec Transport Infrastructure and Logistic Study".
Sheikh Hasina said the recommendations now need prioritizing with an agreed timetable for their early implementation.
"The study should also suggest innovative and practical modalities for faster implementation of the identified actions.
The experience of other regions in this respect could be utilised in compiling the recommendations and the study," she said.
The prime minister said the connectivity strategy and the resulting economic activities would greatly support the Bimstec "Poverty Plan of Action" for quickening the process of poverty alleviation in our region.
"This action plan contains some useful measures for drawing up regional initiatives. The Bimstec Poverty Alleviation Center in Dhaka could play a useful role in this regard as it is privy to the knowledge and experience of Bangladesh," she said.
The Prime Minister said, "The 'Framework Agreement on Bimstec FTA" signed a decade ago would help further increase the trade.
The Trade Negotiating Committee needs to adopt the four inter-related agreements as a package under the Framework Agreement and complete all its work by 2014."
"It would assist the next Trade and Economic Affairs Ministers' Meeting in Dhaka with commitment and flexibility to wrap up the TNC's work and move ahead to address the issues of non-tariff barriers and the flow of investment and finance, as part of wider economic cooperation," she said.
Sheikh Hasina placed emphasis on adoption of sustainable energy development programs as well as developing regional energy grids and energy markets.
"Our huge untapped energy potentials, particularly the hydropower on bilateral or trilateral basis, would need to be developed for optimal utilisation through collaborative projects," she said.
She said the recent experience of cross-border power sharing between Bangladesh and India would help finalize plans covering these efforts.
About the issue of climate change impacts, the prime minister said the Bimstec countries should need to mobilize collective efforts to monitor, and take unified stand to this end.
Sheikh Hasina said sustainable development and reduction of poverty also demand beneficial conservation, development and tapping of water resources in the region.
"This is also vital for agriculture and food security and our countries are sometimes affected with production shortfall in key cereals."
She said modalities also need to be found for the sharing of water resources, especially of common rivers. "As for example, Bangladesh and India is sharing the water of the River Ganges with the signing of the 30-year Ganges Water Sharing Treaty, with others to follow soon," she said.
The prime minister said BIMSTEC countries could also explore their potentials in fisheries, livestock and horticulture.
"For food security, we need to develop intra-regional food support mechanism to help countries overcome short-term difficulties and explore ways for increased investments in the farm sector," she said.
Sheikh Hasina expressed her confidence that the Bimstec Permanent Secretariat would generate the momentum necessary for the implementation of all our decisions and the agreed agenda.
"I am happy that Dhaka was chosen as its seat and I thank you all again for the decision," she said and assured that it would receive all support "from us for its operation and activities".